Author: Robin Talley
Pages: 382 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Source: For Review
Purchase: Amazon•TBD (affiliate link)
Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it's mostly about sex.
No, it isn't that kind of theory. Aki already knows she's bisexual—even if, until now, it's mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.
Actually, Aki's theory is that she's got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she's got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It's time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.
So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.
But it's not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you're in love? It's going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.
I was nervous going into Our Own Private Universe, because my introduction to this author was kind of a disaster. But I am so glad that I decided to give her another chance! Aki has just realized that she’s bisexual and the only person who knows is her BFF, Lori. The girls are on a trip with their youth group and two others to Mexico, when they form a pact. They’re going to have summer flings! Aki already has her eyes on Christa, but that pact gives her the extra push that needs to just go for it.
Our Own Private Universe has a lot of great stuff happening in it! Other than having more than one bisexual character, each with their own experiences and views on their sexuality, there’s talk of alternative relationships. We’re also immersed in a religious group and get to see how Aki’s sexuality fits into that. Aki also becomes invested in some of the measures that her church is going to be voting on ranging from marriage equality, climate change, and global health care. All of these are very important issues and I was happy to see teens and young adults having serious discussions and thinking critically about them.
As for the romantic portion, Aki and Christa were very sweet at times, but also frustrating! I suppose this just made them feel realistic. Christa is a year older than Aki, but comes across as more experience which has Aki nervous. She’s such an overthinker, but I liked that because it leads to discussions on safe sex for two girls which is not something I have ever read before! Where I got frustrated with them, was that there was a lack of trust at times. However, being in close proximity with such a small group of people when rumors start flying makes it easy to point fingers, since there’s only so many people around. At least they talk it out, if not right away.
One thing that I noticed about Our Own Private Universe which is very similar to What We Left Behind, is that the author tends to give off a lot of information but in a textbook sort of way. It’s very important information, which I certainly think needs to be there, but it didn’t feel natural. Aki and Christa seem to be taking turns reading from a brochure about sexuality when they talk about their identities and relationship. Maybe this is how teens talk today? They certainly have more access to information than I did ten years ago at that age. But even still, it was info-dumpy and the girls didn’t sound genuine.
Overall, I really enjoyed Our Own Private Universe. I’m always interested in reading about how religious characters, or those who are part of a religious community, handle coming out or just being queer among their family and peers. I’m happy to report that Aki has a pretty easy time coming out, so this is a happy queers book!